Chronological History of the American Civil War
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be sure of one Yankee than to fire twenty rounds at random — Keep cool, if you would keep your enemy hot.” Monday, May 18, 1863 : Sherman’s leading men reached the outskirts of Vicksburg. Grant now had Pemberton (CSA) backed up into the city. He soon will have closed the ring and laid siege to the town. In the three weeks, since Grant crossed the Mississippi in the campaign to capture Vicksburg, his men marched 180 miles and won five battles. They took nearly 100 Confederate artillery pieces and nearly 6,000 prisoners, all with relatively light losses. In Bolivar, John Houston Bills, settler, planter, and diarist writes: “Today is exciting among the Negroes. Efforts making to enlist them. 6 of McNeals come in and one of mine “Tom” a man of 35 or 40 years of age. He is the first to leave me & thought, he would have been the last to go. I think my people proved pretty faithful so far, and I give them credit for loyalty.” In the days and weeks ahead more will follow off local plantations, for now all races are drafted into U.S. Armies. Tuesday, May 19, 1863 : Vicksburg, Mississippi is besieged. Surrounded now on all sides by Union forces. General Grant ordered a hasty and not well-prepared attack on Vicksburg. However, the attack failed and the North loses 900 men. Wednesday, May 20, 1863 : Grant’s men dug themselves in around Vicksburg. Union warships, patrolled the River Mississippi around Vicksburg, to hinder any Confederate use of the river. However, despite their military success, Union forces had not had it all their own way. They had to make do with five days rations over a three-week stretch. More skirmishing at Collierville, Tennessee, with the Confederate Cavalry attack on the Union picket post #'s 4 and 5, with 1 killed and 9 missing. Thursday, May 21, 1863 : Grant’s troops received their first batch of food in weeks when bread arrived along with coffee. Grant hoped that this would boost the morale of his men and ordered an attack on Vicksburg for the following day. Friday, May 22, 1863 : Grant attacks again on Vicksburg, it was another failure and the North lost another 500 killed and 2,500 wounded. This ruined Grant’s misguided belief that Vicksburg was not well defended. Grant decided to just “out camp the enemy.” The siege continues. The bluffs near the small town of Port Hudson, Louisiana represented a perfect site for the river batteries. These bluffs were the first high ground upstream from Baton Rouge and overlooked a severe bend in the river. This bend presented an additional obstacle for Union warships. This small port town, was part of the primary route for the shipment of supplies from Texas to the heartland of the Confederacy.
With roughly 30,000 Union troops, under the command of Major General Nathaniel P. Banks (U.S.) were pitted against 6,800 Confederates, under the command of Major General Franklin Gardner (CSA) (pictured) the siege of Port Hudson, began today. Gardner (CSA) had just received orders to abandon the Port Hudson and join Confederate forces in Jackson, Mississippi, but it was too late, they were surrounded. The ensuing battles constituted some of the bloodiest and most severe fighting in the entire Civil War. The U. S. War Department formed the Bureau of Colored Troops to oversee the enlistment of black soldiers and the selection of officers for black regiments. Abraham Lincoln offers command of the Army of the Potomac to Darius Couch. Couch refuses, but recommends George Meade.
Saturday, May 23, 1863 : In Louisiana, Nathaniel Banks’s Federals advanced more men on Port Hudson from Bayou Sara in a heavy rain storm. In Mississippi, General Grant (U.S.) meanwhile extends his line around Vicksburg for 15 miles. In this week’s action alone another 4,659 soldier’s lives will be claimed by the war.
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